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Chapter 10: The Decision
Chuck said, “That brings us to the sale itself. Are you going to tell me profit engineering replaces a good sales team?”
“No. Not at all. But it will change how they do their job. Profit engineering includes offering things like buyer’s guides, A/B examples and a call to action that generates sales on its own. But for the serious selling, you’ll still be relying on professional human beings.”
“I’d say that reduces the value a bit. You wouldn’t buy a car that always stops a mile from your house.”
“That would depend on how pretty the walk was…but offering inbound content as part of a profit engineering strategy makes the job of your sales team much easier in a variety of ways.”
“That’s a song I’ve heard before. How is this different?”
“Some of that we’ll talk about in detail later, but for now let’s talk about how every single piece of information you provide at this stage helps customers make decisions. It establishes trust and reinforces the relationship. Here’s how…”
The final stage of the buyer’s journey comes when buyers have clearly defined their preferred method to solve a problem or leverage an opportunity. They have made a decision to buy, and are now choosing which option to purchase.
At the Decision stage, buyers know what they want and need to understand the key differences between available options. From your perspective, this means primarily the key ways you are different from, and better than, your competition.
Buyers at this stage want facts. At best, the facts are so unadorned with sales talk and extraneous detail that you could fairly and accurately describe them as data. Buyers want to know everything necessary to make a rapid and informed decision. Keep in mind that for B2B sales, your clients could be risking their jobs or businesses on the decision. They want accuracy, honesty, and personalized recommendations from an expert they trust.
If you’ve done your job right during the Awareness and Consideration phases, that trusted expert will be you.
Unless you derail the process during this last stage, which is easier to do than you might think. This close to the finish line, buyers can still be turned off by rookie mistakes like trying to increase the sale by adding extra services that don’t solve the problem that brought them to the table. Using the hard sell at the end can lose all the credibility you so carefully built up to this point, as will any surprises like hidden costs and fees.
Unresponsive sales reps are another huge problem at this stage. Remember: modern buyers are sophisticated and informed. If you take your sweet time getting to their questions just before the sale, they will make assumptions about how they’ll be treated once you have their money.
SIDEBAR: What If the Competition Is Better?
One major question I’m often asked at this point is what to do when the competition has traits, prices, or other features superior to your own. You’ve set yourself up as a trustworthy advisor, but what if the most honest advice to buyers is to purchase from somebody else?
The best move in these cases is to still give the most honest advice. In many cases, buyers will chose your product anyway because of the relationship you’ve built. Even if they don’t, which vendor do you think they will recommend to their friends? The one they bought from, or the one who gave them honest advice even though it cost a sale?
Decision Stage Best Practices
Your content for the decision stage is about helping buyers make a decision. It should offer all the information they need to make that decision, and none of the information they don’t need. It is your job to provide that information as completely, understandably, transparently, and neutrally as possible.
- Focus on the relevant details about your product and comparable products in the industry. This would be the time to provide cost breakdowns, comparison charts, and similar deep details.
- Use keywords associated with general comparison, as well as those for the industry you serve. Again, include general terms like compare, vs., pros and cons, and benchmarks. “Consumer report” and “consumer review” are also good calls.
- Ask yourself which qualities you strove for when creating your product, and how they differentiate you from the competition. Consider questions other buyers asked you at this stage, and how you answered them most successfully.
- Avoid even appearing to “massage” your numbers or otherwise provide a biased comparison. You’ve invested too much in earning the buyer’s trust to betray it at this point.
- Provide content containing meaningful, apples-to-apples comparisons of specific products, like vendor comparisons, product comparisons, case studies, free trials and downloads, and specific product literature.
Hopefully the end result of this stage is happy clients buying from you, who are primed to be delighted by the quality of your product and service. Overall, you want to continue increasing your credibility at this stage while showing information that reduces perceived risk on the part of buyers.
The Decision stage is your opportunity to get the payoff for your previous investments of time and capital. As with every other stage of the buyer’s journey, this will happen if you maintain focus on the relationship, and on your role as coach and caring mentor. Though you will make several shifts in the type and tone of your content at this stage, if you shift your intent from relationship to sale, you have a good chance of losing both.